Presented to you by Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney
Robert Helfend

Criminal defendants can make considerable mistakes that can significantly harm their cases. Here are some of the biggest mistakes that criminal defendants often make:

1. Hiring an inexperienced criminal defense attorney

Many times the accused will hire an inexperienced criminal defense attorney simply because the lawyer is low-priced. Others may hire attorneys who make promises of the outcome of their cases and cannot deliver. An effective criminal defense counsel requires the proper experience. Our criminal defense attorneys‘ impeccable track record speaks for itself. Avoid making assumptions of a lawyer’s qualifications without researching the criminal defense attorney’s legal ability and trial skills.

2. Divulging information

This is a common mistake among suspects of a criminal investigation. One should never talk to the police or anyone else about the facts of their potential case without a criminal defense attorney being present. People may want to believe that talking to police will help them, but it ends up hurting them in the end. Just give authorities your identifying information!

3. The presumption of guilt

Our constitution provides that all accused are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Some individuals enter the courtroom feeling guilty which is a grave mistake. The burden of proving guilt lies entirely on the state and thus one is considered innocent until the state proves otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt. Exude confidence when in the courtroom.

4. Contempt of court

Criminal defendants may, at times, disrespect or disregard the authority of a court due to frustration or the stress associated with the case. Failure to comply with a court order, arrogance, being under the influence or late can make one’s case worse. Judges may make your attorney’s job more difficult due to your perceived disrespect!

5. Failure to prepare for a criminal case

A criminal defense attorney and his/her client should work together in scrutinizing the reports and identifying weaknesses that may be exploited for a defense. Get to know everything there is to know about the nature of your case with the help of your attorney.

Contact our qualified criminal defense attorney to help in avoiding these mistakes as we share copies of all materials associated with your matter and reviews these materials with you. We fight hard for your rights and freedom.

RobertHelfendCrimeA few months after reporting a drop in crime levels, Los Angeles police are currently struggling to fight an increase in crime across the city. According to LAPD reports, violent crimes in Los Angeles have gone up by 27% in 2015. The uptick over last year’s figures marked the first such increase in close to a decade. These crimes include rise in the number of people shot, increased homicides, aggravated assaults, rape reports, and robberies.

Officials reported that LAPD recorded an increase of 31 percent of shootings amounting to additional 54 victims this year. Generally, the reports by LADPD indicates a 27 percent increase in property crime through 21st March, compared to the same period last year as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Crime levels in Los Angeles are reported to be running roughly the same as 2012 and that the increase in these crimes is spread out across a most of the neighborhoods. Rapes and assaults rose by 14.3%. Similarly, property crimes have increased by 12%through March 21st. Property crimes category includes motor vehicle theft, burglary, and larceny; with burglaries going up by 26%while motor vehicle thefts and theft from motor vehicles have gone up by 17% compared to 2014. Robberies are up by 19% while rapes have gone up by 7% compared to a similar time last year.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck confirmed that the department will rely on crime data to help predict the crime hotspots and deploy extra resources there. Homicides are one bright spot in the crime statistics, which are down slightly by 2 percent compared to 2014. However, Beck confirmed that shootings are up. Gang related assaults are up by 25 percent since the beginning of the year.

According to the Eastsider website, nine shootings have been reported in Highland Park and its neighborhood in the last six weeks. There has been a reported spark in shootings in Highland Park including one on 10th February that involved a 13-year-old girl who was struck by a stray bullet at a bus stop. This increase has been attributed to the heightened tensions between the Highland Park Gang and the Avenues. According to LAPD reports, the San Fernando Valley saw 11.3% increase in violent crime while gang crimes rose by 8% for the year ending December 2014.

These figures indicate that 2,360 more people have been victims of violence in Los Angeles last year compared to the previous year. The increase has been attributed to increased domestic violence reports, rise in violent crimes and increased number of street fights fueled by alcohol and more accurate cataloging of crime reports in Los Angeles. Most of these violent crimes fall under the California “Three Strikes” Law.

Police detected this trend this year and have been taking steps to combat this crime rates. LAPD has increased the number of officers in areas where a spike in violent crimes has been reported. LAPD is also expanding gang intervention programs in which they work together with young people to steer them away from criminal activities.

LAPD is using a $400.000 federal grant to deal with street violence in the four police divisions with the highest violent crime rates which are 77th Street, Newton, Southwest and Southeast. The grant is anticipated to be used in improving data analysis and reducing recidivism rates in the stated areas.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also vowed to work with the police on the strategies to make the city safer. City officials and LAPD are also seeking to expand the Domestic Abuse Response Teams to all the 21 divisions of LAPD.

20140923__gardner~p1_200Last month, an Arizona woman admitted to stealing thousands of dollars in merchandise from an Aspen sporting goods store, and is scheduled to receive a sentence involving probation.

But for Kimberly Ann Gardner, 27, the sentence didn’t go as planned. Gardner’s plea agreement was rescinded after authorities learned she had been arrested on suspicion of stealing twice on the same December day in California from an REI sporting-goods store. Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols allowed the local prosecution’s motion to withdraw the plea agreement and had sheriff’s deputies take Gardener into custody. Her bond was set at $1,000 on felony charges of violating previous bond conditions.

Nichols suggested that Gardner’s big mistake, in regards to her dealings in Pitkin County, was her inability to inform law enforcement of her two arrests on Dec. 7th in Manhattan Beach and Arcadia. According to court records, Gardner had no previous criminal history up until her felony arrest in Aspen on Sept. 21st. Her defense was unsuccessful in getting Gardner released, even after arguing that Gardner was a victim of a man she had recently married. Gardner stated she was unaware of her husband’s four previous felony convictions.

The husband was also connected to the California thefts. Gardner left him soon after and moved to Arizona where she actively sought an annulment. “She’s a young lady who’s scared to death that she got involved with such a horrific individual,” her defense attorney said. Gardner has her degree in physical therapy where she practices in Arizona. Her defense attorney has been trying to get her released from Colorado so she can return to Arizona. Gardner was denied her request for a personal-recognizance bond, but granted her release.

The rescinded plea agreement included a commendation for a two-year deferred judgment on a felony theft charge. Gardner is responsible for stealing roughly $3,000 worth of store products from four Aspen sporting-goods stores. Her next court appearance in Aspen is scheduled for April 20.

464205364-398x600Actress Lupita Nyong’o’s Oscar dress was stolen from her hotel room on Feb. 24th, 2015. The dress, an irreplaceable pearl gown by Calvin Klein, was estimated to be worth $150,000. The dress was handmade by Francisco Costa using 6,000 white pearls and was taken from her hotel room at the fancy and renowned London West Hollywood in Los Angeles. The star of 12 Years A Slave, reported to law enforcement officers that the dress was stolen on Wednesday evening.

The designer dress and the thief were gone before police were notified just before midnight. Last year’s winner as best supporting actress in director Steve MCQueen’s critically acclaimed movie, Nyong’o, 31, was there at the scene when police arrived. Police reported that Nyong’o was out of the room when the crime occurred just three days after the actress wore the lavish dress at the Dolby Theatre.

Investigators believe the dress was taken sometime between 8 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. There was no noticeable sign of forced entry. The dress was the only thing to have been stolen from the room by the thief. It wasn’t made clear if the dress had been insured before the incident. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and detective supervisor Lt. Michael White of the West Hollywood station are looking into key-card data to see who might have had access to the movie star’s room during the window in which detectives determined the dress was stolen.

Nyong’o was out and had been staying with a large entourage of friends, makeup artists, hairstylists and fitters who would have had access to her room and key card. “That’s what they’ve done for most of the day — interview people who might have had access to the room,” said White. “So far it’s employees.” Law enforcement is also looking into surveillance videos to see if they can spot the thief.

Nyong’o changed out of the dress before heading to the Vanity Fair post-Oscars party Sunday night. Lt. White made further comments stating how it would be hard for the thief to unload the dress. “Now that you have it, what do you do with it?” he asked. Calvin Klein declined to comment on the theft.

1631219_GA California man’s drug case was successfully dismissed by a federal judge once he appealed his convictions after the prosecution was unable to disclose to the defense that a key witness had received a reduced sentence.

Dana Christensen, a U.S. District Judge in Missoula dismissed charges against LaShawn Jermain Johnson of Tulare, California, after the U.S. attorney’s office declined to seek a new trail. The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on the matter, but in previous records, Assistant U.S Attorney Michael Lahr mentioned that the prosecutor had erred in trail.

The 37-year old Johnson was convicted on five counts including cocaine possession with intent to distribute, conspiracy, and possession of a firearm in 2006. His sentence was lowered from 35 years in prison to 25 years. Without an attorney, Johnson appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, stating that prosecutors didn’t reveal to him that co-defendant Heather Schutz was granted a sentence break before her testimony against him.

A Missoula attorney who was recently appointed to represent Johnson, stated that his client was “very, very happy” that the charges had been dismissed. Johnson served eight years in prison before his charges were dropped. As far as the prosecution declining to re-try the case goes, Johnson’s attorney said, “I kind of like to think in this case…they realized that they were just going to do the right thing and not push it.”

In 2006, Johnson was found to be at the top of a large drug conspiracy that ended a year earlier after law enforcement raided Schutz’s house in Billings. Schutz reached a plea agreement in which she testified that Johnson was here supplier in exchange for a reduced sentenced. Schutz had told authorities in an earlier statement that Johnson was not her supplier. Both versions of Schutz’s statement were brought to the jury, but her plea bargain had been reached and the fact that her sentence was already reduced was “evidence the jury should have heard to allow it to determine whether she was being truthful when she debriefed or when testifying at trial,” Lahr said.

Schutz is serving a 15-year sentence.

1013589February 3, 2015, a San Diego resident accused of making threatening phone calls to a Muslim Civil Rights Group office and leaving threatening voice messages plead not guilty to hate crime charges.

John David Weissinger has a case against him stemming from profane phone messages received by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in San Diego, California. According to Deputy District Attorney Oscar Garcia, a staff member received the message in which Weissinger supposedly threatened the center with a mass shooting.

The Jan. 15th phone call was traced by the San Diego Police Department to Weissinger’s house. When law enforcement arrived at the house, they found an AR-15 assault rifle with a high-capacity ammunition magazine. As reported by Garcia, police also found “slurs and writings of a racist nature” in the house as well. Weissinger, 53, was later accused of using his iPhone to send a threatening message to the CAIR office based in Washington, D.C.

He has been charged with making threatening calls and attempting threatening communications, both of which are felonies that are being considered hate crimes. Weissinger is also being charged with misdemeanors regarding the harassing calls and the obstruction of his victims’ civil rights. If convicted on all charges, the penalty includes 5 years in prison. Weissinger is currently free on a $50,000 bond.

“My client had consumed copious amounts of alcohol and was watching the Charlie Hebdo (massacre in Paris) on television,” said Weissinger’s defense attorney. “When people are under the influence of alcohol, they tend to do a lot of things they shouldn’t do and wish they could take back.”

But the executive director of CAIR in San Diego, Hanif Mohebi, noted that drunkenness is no excuse for the fear inflicted on his organization. Furthermore, Mohebi responded by saying a double standard has been exposed by this case, and that the U.S. criminal justice system is at fault. “Had this been a Muslim who committed this crime, the FBI would be investigating it, and they are not. … We are the victims of terrorism, and this case should be treated as such.”

Weissinger stated that he inherited a selection of guns from his brother who had passed away, and that he sold all of them except the AR-15. Though there was a magazine found with the gun, there was no ammunition found at the house by police.

Tax-FraudA Californian man who netted $5.9 million in a loan scam pled guilty Monday to federal bank fraud and tax charges. Derek Richard Brewart, 53, a former insurance agent and owner of Hamilton Brewart Insurance Agency of Upland, California, plead guilty before U.S. District Judge, Jesus G. Bernal.

Brewart was securing loans from Universal Bank using his client’s names without their permission. He pled guilty to filing false tax returns and bank fraud after investigations found that from 2008 through 2012, fraudulent loan applications for premium financing loans were secured and used to pay HBIA’s expenses. To cover up the scheme, Brewart routed Universal Bank correspondence about the loan applications to a post office box instead of his clients’ mailing addresses.

“Brewart’s greed led him to rip off his clients and violate his fiduciary responsibility as a licensed agent,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “We will continue to use every resource available and work with our law enforcement partners to aggressively pursue criminals.”

False tax returns for 2010 and 2011 were also filed by Brewart. In his guilty plea, Brewart admitted that $785,922 of the income he received wasn’t reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over those two years.

Judge Bernal is scheduled to sentence Brewart on July 13th, where he will face a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for the bank fraud charges, and 3 years for the tax charges. Both federal and state law enforcement agencies participated in the investigation, including the California Department of Insurance, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The United States Attorney’s Office represented the case as the prosecution.

112513-suge-knight-623-1385404689Marion “Suge” Knight, founder of Death Row Records, has been charged with murder after injuring one man and killing another with his car last Thursday. Knight was supposedly fleeing attackers when he struck the two men with his car. The 49-year old Knight’s attorney stated “he (Knight) planned to turn himself in to authorities…and we are confident that once the investigation is completed, he will be totally exonerated.”

The two men were struck by a red pickup truck around 3 p.m. in the parking lot of a fast-food establishment located in the Los Angeles area of Compton. Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. John Corina said the incident is being investigated as a homicide. “Looks like he drove backwards and struck the victims and drove forwards and struck them again,” Corina said. “The people we talked to say it looked like it was an intentional act,” he said.

A 55-year old Terry Carter died in the hospital while 51-year old Cle “Bone” Sloan, sustained substantial injuries. Sloan’s was supposedly part of an earlier altercation with Knight in which the two individuals got in a fist fight. The truck was found empty in West Los Angeles parking lot late Thursday night. Although no witnesses saw Knight behind the wheel during the incident, the rap mogul was seen driving the truck 20 minutes before the incident occurred.

Knights lawyer insists it was an accident. “He was in the process of being physically assaulted by two men and in an effort to escape, he unfortunately hit two (other) individuals,” he said. “He was in his car trying to escape.”

Knight’s bail, set at $2 million, was revoked after a court commissioner and authorities agreed there was a flight risk and that the potential to intimidate witnesses was too high.

drug-cartel-mapA California to Nebraska methamphetamine trafficking ring was dismantled by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Nebraska-based law enforcement over an 18-month period. The drug ring was tied to Mexico’s notorious Sinaloa drug cartel who had been sending large amounts of meth from California to the Midwest.

An investigation that began in 2013 of a mid-level drug dealer has led to the arrest of 20 people along with $35,000 and 12 pounds of methamphetamine. Prescription drugs and marijuana were also confiscated by authorities. Though larger busts have been made, the DEA are calling this recent bust a major blow to the drug trafficking organization. Members of the cartel are also linked to burglaries and murders.

“We totally dismantled the organization from the higher-ups in California to the criminal users in Omaha,” says Mike Sanders, the assistant special agent in charge at the DEA’s Omaha office. Not only did it take out the major players but also the low level criminals committing crimes in the community.”

Tactics including undercover officers, wire intercepts and controlled buys, were used to build a case against traffickers to track the meth trail back to the Sinaloa cartel. In late 2014, investigators seized 5 pounds of meth being transported from California to Omaha. The DEA noted that these cartels and their proxy groups in the U.S. is nothing new. The recent Omaha bust highlighted the continued incursions by Mexican cartels and their movement away from the border states into urban areas in the Midwest.

In 2011, a Justice Department report found Mexican-based cartels were operating in roughly 1,000 U.S. cities between 2009 and 2010. The report also noted a move from marijuana to other drugs including cocaine, meth, as well as human trafficking operations. “Just about every meth seizure we have here – in Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa – in the past three years has had ties to the Mexican cartels,” Sanders said.

Cartels such as Sinaloa have become major dealers in U.S. cities due to their ability to produce a cheaper and more pure form of meth in large quantities. They have mad such accomplishments by hiring professional chemists to work in law enforcement officers are describing as super labs. “A few years ago with meth made here in the U.S. it would be brown and just look dirty,” Sanders said. “The cartels, however, make it so pure and so good that the meth is clear. It looks like ice.”

The cartels have moved away from the border states due to an up-scaled law enforcement effort. “The main reason for moving to these areas is that the police in cities and along the border have become much more sophisticated in fighting the cartels,” said George W. Grayson, an expert on Mexico’s drug war and a politics professor at the College of William and Mary. “When you don’t deal with that type of crime day in and day out you’re not going to have the expertise in combating the cartels.”

Investigators are calling it a hate crime after a Fresno man was arrested on suspicion of vandalizing the Islamic Cultural Center on Christmas day. images

Asif Mohammad Khan, a 28-year-old Fresno resident, is the man suspected of vandalizing the Islamic Cultural Center. Khan’s relatives are claiming mental illness, specifically schizophrenia, and not an act of hatred that led to his criminal actions. “It is a case of mental illness,” said his sister, Samia Khan. “There’s no question about that.”

Khan was booked into jail on charges including felony vandalism after he committed over $10,000 in damages, including further damages to the nearby California Digestive Disease Center’s medical office. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer found broken glass and a bleach stained American flag inside of the Islamic center that led him and other investigators to conclude that Khan was committing hate crimes. But a more recent interview with Khan has led the investigative team to reverse the initial theory.

“It was obviously not as we thought,” said Dyer, who also confirmed that the FBI was allowed to conclude whether the hate-crime allegations were warranted. After Khan’s confession, in which he told officers that he was disgruntled by people at the Islamic center for bullying, authorities are zeroing in on concrete punishments.

Khan’s sister, Samia, told law enforcement officers that doctors in 2009 diagnosed her brother with schizophrenia. Chief Dyer said this changes the context of the investigation. “I’m not here to provide his defense but I do believe it provides some form of explanation and may serve to reduce some fear,” said Dyer.

Samia also mentioned that her brother hadn’t taken his medication in the days leading up to the incident. She apologized for her brother’s actions in a written letter, and said her family is proud to be part of Fresno’s Muslim community. “We hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive his mistake,” the letter said. “Understand the health issue has brought us here today.”

Islamic Cultural Center manager Reza Nekumanesh released a statement: “Thank you to all those who did come out and show our center support.”